NO REASON FOR DIVISION
According to Romans 14, there is no reason for Christians to be divided. However, most Christians are accustomed to the existence of "high places." Some may even feel that today’s "high places" are right and necessary. We think this way because we were born into an environment filled with division, with "high places" of every variety. Because we are so accustomed to division, we may have very little feeling about it. Paul’s feeling in Romans 14, on the contrary, was altogether different. Here he encourages us not to argue over such things as eating or observing days. Concerning these things, we should refrain from expressing our opinion. In this way, the oneness of the believers will be preserved.
In the previous chapter I referred to a joint meeting of Christian groups that was held for awhile in Los Angeles in 1963. The members of these groups were eager to come together for the practice of the church life. Hearing of their interest and of their proposal to have a joint meeting, I gave them a word from Romans 14. I pointed out that if we intend to practice the church life, we must take the way set down by Paul in this chapter. Many Christians talk about the Body life in Romans 12, but they neglect the principles in Romans 14. Without Romans 14 it is impossible to have the Body life described in Romans 12. Throughout the centuries, Christians have been divided by opinions over doctrine and practices. For example, Christians are divided over the matter of baptism. There is disagreement not only about the mode of baptism, but also about the water that is used and the name in which believers are baptized. The opinions concerning baptism have caused many divisions, even many elevations that exalt a particular opinion. Therefore, it is of crucial importance that we follow the way exemplified by Paul in Romans 14. Those from these groups assured me that they would take this way.
Nevertheless, after just a few weeks, problems developed. Some insisted on playing tambourines and speaking in tongues in the meetings. Others strongly opposed these practices. Eventually, neither group was willing to give in and to care for the feeling of others in order to maintain oneness. Eventually, it was not possible for that joint meeting to continue. The ones in these groups expected everyone to be the same as they were. However, if we have such an expectation, it will not be possible to have the church life. The church life must be all-inclusive, able to include all manner of genuine Christians.
In Romans 14 Paul had no intention of taking sides on the questions of eating or of observing days. Instead, he said, "He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God" (v. 6). This was Paul’s attitude, and it should be our attitude today.
We should not try to make everyone the same as we are. For example, although we may not speak in tongues, we should not forbid others to speak in tongues. On the other hand, those who speak in tongues should not insist that others do so as well. If we have this attitude, we shall not be sectarian, and there will be no "high places" among us.
Some accuse us of narrowness. However, we are not narrow, for we receive all genuine Christians. The ones who are narrow are those who insist on a certain doctrine or practice. Their insistence on a particular matter causes it to be elevated and uplifted in place of Christ.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)